Wednesday, March 31, 2010


March came in like a lamb and went out in a similar fashion; it was 80 degrees today and sunny. The UPS delivery man was nice enough to remind us that we can still have freezing temps and snow in May so ... not to worry.

Frances and I discovered during a late afternoon walk that the frogs are back singing their hearts out. When we arrived at the wetlands and small stream where we typically walk, the sound of the spring peepers was deafening. Enroute a few crocuses poked their purple heads above the leaf litter. Even so, piles of snow still linger in ditches and shrink slowly into black, dirty ice.

After I began this evening's practice I fleetingly wondered whether I'd already performed my practice earlier today. That's how my life's been lately ... one day flowing into the next without hesitation or pause.

Later in the practice I realized that I was moving through Anchor Step Taffy with relaxed ease. Anchor Step has always been one of my least-favorite movements. Today--ta da!--it felt different, more flowing. It was a shock--and a welcome surprise--since I'd hoped to feel more comfortable with it for a number of years. It just wasn't happening.

I often tell my classes that they'll probably find certain movements in the form that they enjoy more or feel more comfortable performing. Other moves may be harder, more challenging. I encourage students to keep practicing because, as I've found, eventually my sense of the movement changes and I gain greater comfort and ease as I move through it. Indeed, after many years of practice, Anchor Step Taffy is reshaping itself ... from effort to effortlessness.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pillows and Blankies

Excellent timing tonight ... I taught my continuing t'ai chi chih moving meditation class in Washburn then drove six blocks to attend the Bayfield County Board meeting regarding the Shadow Wood Landing rezone. I arrived about 75 minutes after the meeting started and, although Shadow Wood was one of the early agenda items, I still managed to hear almost two hours of public testimony and offer a brief statement myself.

The timing was exceptional because it provided me with the opportunity to relax along with my students as I taught my class. The sense of peace and relaxation that pervaded the classroom also put me in a positive frame of mind to attend the Board meeting and, once the rezone was approved despite our testimony in opposition (30+ people), I went home knowing that I had done my best. You can't ask for more than that now can you?

During my TCC class session I turned with my back to the room to lead students through the Taffies and Working the Pulley. When I turned back to face them, the first thought that came to mind was this: I'm going to have to start bringing pillows and blankies for my students. It looks like we all need to take a nap immediately after this class.

It's tremendously encouraging to see how relaxed and at ease my students become during and after our practice sessions. And, as I told my students, it feels as if we're giving each other permission--providing a support group, if you will--to be quiet. In our culture of speed, sound, success, and excess, that is a rare and wonderful thing.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Get Out of the Car

It's a blowy, leaf fluttering day. I just finished practice outside on the deck with the sound of my neighbors--the songbirds--serenading me.

Frances and I worked hard this past week to educate and activate people in the region regarding a proposed zoning change that goes before the Bayfield County Board tomorrow night. The developers of this project hope to turn 380 acres of forested land into a jet-capable runway with a boutique hotel, condos, and upscale single family housing.

Designed for an elite clientele its main benefit to the community appears to be the potential for low-paying jobs (which, in our struggling Town, is considered a benefit over no jobs). If approved, Shadow Wood Landing paves the way for large-scale development here in the middle of the woods as well as in other locations throughout Bayfield County.

Silence--and bird song--have been several of the greatest treasures I've experienced living in my woodsy home. I'm opposed to this rezone request and I needed to get involved ... to actually do something.

Needless to say, my engine is running on overdrive. T'ai chi chih moving meditation allows me to downshift to a cruising speed instead of continually circling the track as if I were behind the wheel in a high speed race. Too many thoughts, too much struggle, and too many doubts return me to my practice everyday. And it is here--in the midst of my practice--that I rediscover the peace and silence that called me to this form 16 years ago.

T'ai chi chih is so much more than a simple gift of light and life. In my case, and in the aforementioned instance, it's like a speed trap that reminds me to slow down and get out of the car.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Seeds of Silence

Whew. Mid-afternoon silent TCC practice. Frances is out of the house, the cat and dog are asleep, and the house is quiet. I move in lone, sole peacefulness.

I feel the energy of the silence. It's a wonderful calm after five days of busyness and business. At one point in my practice I hear the loud roar of a truck motor as it passes the bottom of our driveway. Otherwise ... the quiet is palpable.

My palms pulse with energy, especially when I carry the ball through the first portion of Platter Variation. Softly I rest my mind, let it slow, almost stop. Breathe.

After my final bow I'm off to a seed savers' gathering at an organic farm in the orchard area about eight miles from our home. What a wonderful collection of people, seeds, homemade food, drink, and conversation. It's been a good, full day. T'ai chi chih moving meditation reminds me that, by returning to silence, I bring a healing balance to my life.

Ending the Day with T'ai Chi Chih Practice

Hello Reflection. Tonight's late night practice invited me to watch my alternate self move in the darkened glass of the patio door.

It's always good to check-in with myself to see how I look as I move. Tonight it was fun to note the changes and corrections that I've incorporated into my practice following the late January TCC retreat in Minnesota. Initially the refinements felt foreign and artificial; now they feel relaxed, natural, commonplace.

After another all-too-busy day with no computer accessibility this late night practice slowed me down and soothed my soul. I'm a morning person which means that by this time of night I've become a woman of few words with even fewer brain cells firing.

This commitment to blog daily, though, pushes me to practice on days when I might otherwise go to bed, exhausted. I still go to bed exhausted but now I feel relaxed and satisfied knowing that I finished my day with a t'ai chi chih practice. Yawn.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ultimate Relaxation

Friday, March 26, 2009, 9:10 pm

After a full day--and limited progress--I gave up on Frances' and my afternoon-long project and gave in to TCC practice.

Ahhh. The energy ... felt ... so ... good.

After I began my practice I realized how appropriate it was to abandon my frustrations to the ethers and, instead, pull in energy from Earth and Sky.

It was the right decision. Now I'm so relaxed I can barely keep my eyes open or move my hand across the page.

Frances continues to devote herself to the aforementioned project via computer and I sense I can't stay awake long enough to enter my blog. Just remember: I came ... I saw ... I practiced ... and I went to bed.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How Wonder-Full...

Yup. A strong blow of air passed through the area last night and returned us to typical spring temperatures. It was five degrees when I got up this AM. Temps rose to 20ish--ah, that cool spring breeze in the face--and, at dinner time, the thermostat reads ten.

I was shocked back into my winter coat as I headed for my final TCC class in Cornucopia this morning. The group practice felt wonder-full. Our small group--there were four students today--passed silently through the movements and ended with smiles all around during the Healing Sounds.

Our reading of the Tao, Verse 54, was entitled Living as if Your Life Makes a Difference. Wayne Dyer writes, in part (p. 264):
It's said that when a butterfly flaps its wings, that energy flows thousands of miles away. Therefore, everything you think and do extends outward and multiplies. Live your life knowing that the difference you choose to make is toward wholeness.... Be conscious of how very much you matter to all of creation.
Several students acknowledged that they are not that conscious of how much they matter to the world. I asked the class: For you personally, what role does TCC--and your decision to learn and practice it--play in transforming yourself and the planet? Yes, someone said, TCC practice does help me pay attention and see, think, and experience things differently.

In class I'm deeply aware of the distinct transformation that occurs in our bodies and and minds as reflected through our movements when we travel together through the form. Simply by practicing, we transform ourselves ... and the planet. When we practice, alone or in a group, we release the ego self and reconnect with the love and peace that are part of our essential nature.

That's one major reason I keep returning, again and again, to my TCC practice. How wonder-full to believe that my movements toward wholeness, my Bird Flaps Its Wings, my Daughter on the Mountain Top, my Working the Pulley, my Passing Clouds create a vibration that echoes across the Universe....

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Growing Quiet ... Quietly Growing

I gaze into the woods from my TCC practice spot on the deck and see evidence of winter slipping silently away.... Fallen twigs and branches rest quietly upon the forest floor. Weeds and grasses, crushed by their winter's weight of snow, lie flattened and dormant. Last fall's leaves carpet the ground with a brown oak, maple, poplar pattern and, with a just right whiff of wind dance across the ground to a new home.

It's another unseasonably warm spring day and I position myself on the southeastern edge of the deck where I have the clearest view of Lake Superior. From here I focus my eyes on the Lake's rich, deep blue as I engage in my moving meditation and gather my pieces of peace.

The only visible green in this scenario are the sprouting tomato plants that Frances balanced on the deck railing earlier to soak up sunshine. I know, though, that an awakening is being birthed beneath the cover of leaf litter. I can feel its promise in my body as I move slowly through the motions, giving and receiving energy with the trees and the still unseen seedlings that rise toward heaven.

After a morning of research, phone calls, and business I feel my mind and body slowing, calming, quieting ... becoming still. Mmmm.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A very good thing...

At tonight's final TCC session I told my beginning students: Well, you've finished eight weeks and you've barely begun.

Whether students truly understand at this two-month point how much t'ai chi chih moving meditation has the potential to impact their lives is hard to say. Some people catch onto its essential power quickly, for others it may take years or they may never realize the opportunity they chose to ignore.

After 14 years as a TCC teacher I'm always aware when a student drops out of my class even though they may believe that no one notices their absence. What they don't realize is that their being, their energy, and their presence held a place in that class experience that can't be filled by anyone else. Each of us occupies an incredibly unique body/mind/spirit narrative that is ours alone.

Sometimes that story comes out in the way we move our bodies. Often it is obvious through the hidden stress and tension that inhabits particular areas of the body. Irregardless, t'ai chi chih moving meditation offers a pathway toward greater peace and understanding which is, my friends, a very good thing....

Monday, March 22, 2010

At One with the Sun

The appointment to meet with our accountant regarding 2009 income taxes is scheduled for tomorrow morning. Today is do or die day. Consequently, today's t'ai chi chih strategy ... practice before, during, and after tax preparation.

The before practice is done. And, after I finish my blog, the tax prep begins....

I practiced TCC inside the house this morning. These early morning temps in the low 20s are a bit off-putting now that I'm accustomed to afternoon highs in the non-seasonal 50s and 60s. Coincidentally I chose a practice spot directly in the path of the rising sun.

The sun floated high enough in the sky that its rays, no longer shielded by morning haze or low-lying clouds, drenched me with their heat and light. And so I bathed and soaked, glittered and gleamed right along with this magnificent celestial body. At times I felt as if the intensity of light would absorb me into itself. Separate no more, I was anywhere and everywhere ... no one and everyone. My sole goal: To merge with the One greater light.

After practice I picked up 365 Tao to read today's entry, "Sailing." Its description of the ocean sounded similar....
Tao is sometimes compared to the ocean. Its depth is immeasurable, its power rules all who enter it. We seek to sail it with our knowledge ... yet our understanding is incomparable to its vastness.... the old ... know that there is no other alternative than to accept the ocean and float upon it. One who accepts is sustained. Those who go beyond its terms meet death. Thus the wise say that they float here and there without care; they trust in the overwhelming power of Tao.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Carrot and Stick

I saved today's t'ai chi chih practice until late afternoon to reward myself. Like a carrot (the promise of peace and relaxation through TCC) and stick (IRS penalties, etc.), it lured me forward into unfinished tax preparations. I welcomed the anticpated pause in an afternoon filled with sorting, recording, and searching for receipts and records.

After early morning 20 degree temps, I sat in 60 degree sunshine untangling questions and recording utility expenses. As we all know, tax preparation requires patience and fortitude. TCC was a welcome respite.

A few diminishing ridges of snow still line the edges of plowed paths along our drive and into our yard. During my practice on the second floor I look out at a circular ring of crusty white that traces the final curve approaching our house. While my fingers circle Around the Platter and Platter Variation I realize that if my arms and hands could extend through the windows and across a small patch of woods, my fingertips could slide and glide along that tiny path of snow smoothing its faded white trail deep into the reddish clay surface.

With the pure white snowfall almost gone I'm inundated with variations of brown: brown leaves, brown trunks, brown stumps, and brown branches touched by the golden glimmer of fading light. Like a deer camouflaged by my surroundings I'm searching for the bright green sprigs of green that rest just beneath the forest's leafy surface....

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring Awakens

Frances, Namaste, and I strolled partway down the drive this morning. It was our first attempt at taking four-month-old kitten, Chiripa, for a walk (she had to do this entirely on her own four feet).

The snow is almost gone--snow banks no longer line our driveway--which meant that Chiripa could dash, prance, rush, and rustle through the woods and climb an occasional tree as we walked down the road nearby. It was such fun to witness her joy and excitement. Her first attempts at tree climbing and unclimbing were incredible feats of energy, fearlessness, adventure, and positive expectation.

Oh, may I follow in the tiny pawprints of my kitten. May I be filled with the naturalness of my being; unafraid to try something new. May I remember to be fully present in the pure joy of this moment.

It felt wonderful to relax into tonight's practice after a daylong headache that continues--still--into the evening. It's helpful to integrate the Seijaku into my regular practice. I'm curious to discover how its practice over the longterm will affect my stress levels and ... my heart.

Today is Spring Equinox: "Sun and moon divide the sky, ... Earth awakens with a sigh." (365 Tao, p. 79)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Pierce Fear to Go Beyond

I'm too tired this evening to write even one sentence that makes sense. Could that be because nothing makes sense right now?

My evening t'ai chi chih practice, performed in the middle of all this non-sense helped me to relax and calm myself. But, when I'm overtired, it's easy to become lost, overwhelmed.... to allow whatever came over me to over come me.

An appointment with a cardiologist today confirmed what I'd already suspected ... I have heart disease. At the moment that's hard to write or say out loud because I still have to get used to the idea of it. There's the fear, of course, and uncertainty. But there's also great comfort in knowing that I have t'ai chi chih moving meditation, Seijaku, and the Tao to restore, relax, and guide me.

Here's one simple--yet powerful--example ... today's reading from 365 Tao. The entry for today discusses fear.
     All fear comes from our sense of self. When we stand at the border of reality, we are afraid that we will lose our identities by plunging in. We are afraid of being destroyed. But we came from Tao in the first place. We are Tao. To return to Tao is not to be negated, but to become one with the entire universe. True, we will no longer be who we are now, but we will be one with Tao. In that state, there is no need for fear.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

TCC Practice in the Board Room

A long, too-full day. Luckily it began with a t'ai chi chih class in Cornucopia. Before our class started to move we rested quietly, breathed in relaxation, breathed out tension, and established our connections to Earth and Sky. Immediately I felt a strong flow of energy in my palms. Then we moved through the form in near-silence and, as TCC teachers who've had the opportunity to practice together know, that is a special, power-filled experience.

A Bayfield County zoning meeting regarding a Town of Russell rezone request followed and, after a quick trip home to feed animals, let out the dog, and put in the geese, we headed back to Washburn to see Michael Moore's latest movie, Capitalism: A Love Story. Wow! It felt like there was a direct link between the story Moore tells and our experiences in Russell Town/Bayfield County politics. (The rezone request was granted by the zoning committee despite 20 articulate speakers against it and three speakers in favor.)

While I sat in the board room listening to the zoning committee debate the issues surrounding this rezone I closed my eyes and practiced t'ai chi chih in my head. More and more, I use mental rehearsals of TCC as a tool to focus and center my energy and calm my mind and emotions. It does help.

Of course, a good dose of filmmaker Michael Moore's outrageous humor brought the day to a perfect close. Life in the Town of Russell imitated art at the same time that art (filmed on Wall Street, in Flint, MI, at Bank of America, CitiBank, WalMart, and other corporate entities) imitated life. And in the midst of it all ... I imagined one Daughter on the Mountain and another Daughter in the Valley....

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Taxes? ... T'ai Chi Chih!

As tax preparation work piles up, my energy fades. T'ai chi chih practice to the rescue! I just finished another combination TCC/Seijaku practice and, yes, I feel brighter and more energetic. After a quick blog it's back to taxes. Now, though, I'm floating in the Chi and allowing myself to appreciate the feelings of peace and calm that emerged from my practice.

I just subscribed to DailyGood and began receiving a daily inspirational quote/story two days ago. Today's quote: Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one. --Stella Adler

I could easily substitute the words t'ai chi chih moving meditation for art in the aforementioned quote and find a similar result. Recent and on-going contention within our Town over zoning issues has led to wide-ranging political and personal gamemanship and maneuvering.

I was grateful to teach my t'ai chi chih classes last night during the Town Board meeting and simply remove myself from the fray. It's often difficult to figure out what to do and how far to go when working toward positive change. Sometimes it seems that the best solution is simply to practice t'ai chi chih moving meditation and rest in peace instead of simmering on the burner of frustration, anger, and disappointment. I still have much to learn....

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Zoned Out

I'm continuing to adjust to Daylight Savings Time. It hit me a few minutes ago that I'd better get this blog written before it's tomorrow. I'm not alone. A student from my TCC beginner class arrived tonight at 7:45, exactly an hour after the start time. He's retired and lives in the middle of the woods; it hadn't occurred to him that there'd been a time change....

I spent time after class coaching my student and catching him up on two weeks of class sessions; next week is our last and I knew that some one-on-one time would help him feel more comfortable at our final session and better prepared to continue in the subsequent class series. Consequently, today was a three-hour class day. The balls of my feet hurt and my energy is excellent ... I'm not ready for bed yet.

The students in my advanced class looked beautiful as they moved. It was awesome to see the soft, slow, continuous movements that flowed from person-to-person while they glided from one graceful movement to the next.

I felt extremely grateful to be engaged in my TCC classes tonight as the Russell Town Board voted on a highly contentious zoning change. Intuitively I knew the outcome and I felt that my energy and attention were better used in the classroom than in the community center board room. My sister reminded me last night that while it is good to put energy into the effort, it is best not to get attached to the outcome. Sometimes that's a challenge for me; tonight it was made easier by my presence in the TCC moment.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What Animals Can Teach Us

Another fabulous sun-filled day. As snow melts, mud expands its purview. Soon we'll park our car at the end of the driveway until a drier roadway prevails.

Today was another practice-on-the-deck day. As Ander and Lucy (the geese) waded in the stream flowing down the ravine south of our deck and yanked up fresh green goodies, Chiripa (the kitten) raced in and out of the house, onto/over/along/under the deck, and near the geese (who responded with loud, threatening hissing sounds). I swear that kitten must practice TCC because she seemed unfazed by the aggressive goosing behaviors and went blithely on her way. Oh, what those animals can teach us!

My deck practice was a combined TCC/Seijaku session. I'm still getting the gist of the essential aspects of holding fast and letting go that characterize Seijaku and I know that the more I practice, the easier it will become. It felt heavenly to be moving outdoors!

Early in the day I did a mental rehearsal while awaiting lab tests. Seated in the waiting room with my eyes closed, I simply imagined myself practicing Rocking Motion, Bass Drum, Daughter on the Mountain Top, and Daughter in the Valley. When the nurse called me in, she commented that I looked so peaceful sitting there in the sun ... it looked like I was meditating. Yes, I replied, I was.

These mental rehearsals performed when I'm awaiting medical procedures and office visits offers a wonderful sense of calm in an otherwise stressful situation. Sure, TCC is a tool ... but it's also a gift.
Where all the subtle channels of the body meet, like spokes in the centre of a wheel, there he moves in the heart and transforms his own form into many. Upon OM, Atman, your Self, place your meditation. Glory unto you in your far-away journey beyond darkness!
               Mundaka Upanishad
               From: The Mystic Vision, p. 49

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Holding Fast and ... Letting Go

When I stepped out the door this morning, I felt as if I was entering a jungle. The trees were still bare of leaves, of course, the sky still visible through the tall grey trunks and branches of poplars, oaks, birches, and maples in our yard, but overriding it all was the lush melody of birdsong descending from those branches and working its way directly into my heart. The atmosphere resounded with excited, joyous song.

A bit later the kitten and dog joined me on the deck, each of us engaged in our own practices; the dog chased after his first squirrels of the season, threatening them with a strong, quick bark and Chiripa scurried across the deck in mad pursuit of the abundant crop of flies that buzzed busily through the sunshine-filled air. I practiced a mix of TCC and Seijaku in the 60 degree heat as I breathed in air and light.

My practice felt good in body and soul as I alternated three TCC repetitions with three Seijaku repetitions then back to three TCC repetitions per movement. The "holding fast and letting go" of Seijaku offers a decidedly different experience of the energy than regular TCC practice. It takes more attention and intention but the intensity of energy it provides is markedly different.

There's an energy and excitement to this day, too, and rather than sit in a dark room in front of a computer screen I'll abandon it all to the glory of this day. Premature spring--by one week only--here I come!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Welcome Tonic

A foggy haze encircled me as I walked outside to release the geese from their barn this morning. Earlier I watched white-tailed deer, one, then three more, graze quietly through the forest. The smallest--and probably youngest--deer ventured near the bird feeder to nibble delicately on a tender branch while the others gazed from afar quiet as garden statues.

I slipped Justin's Seijaku DVD into the player this morning and followed along. I was certified in Seijaku (Advanced T'ai Chi Chih) in 1999. The training occurred several months before my father's death and, preoccupied with Dad's declining health, I neglected to practice Seijaku regularly. Today, though, I felt like I was reconnecting with an old friend. It felt comfortable, familiar.

Pam Towne, one of TCC's teacher trainers, encouraged me during a phone conversation late last year to return to Seijaku. She suggested that I simply incorporate it into my daily TCC practice, perhaps alternating it within the regular nine repetitions. I intuitively knew the time would come when I could/would revisit Seijaku and ... today is that day.

It feels right, good and appropriate that I'm returning to Seijaku now. My body is in desperate need of it and I sense that its Serenity in the Midst of Activity will provide a welcome tonic in my life.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Still-Point of Peace...

One-half hour of peace. This evening I sink into my t'ai chi chih practice outside on the deck. Yesterday's rains shrunk the snowpack, shriveled the piles of snow lining drive- and roadways, exposed areas of leaves and dirt in the midst of the forest, and revealed rivulets of running water.

It's a quiet, chill, cloud-covered day and still there's this: one-half hour of peace. I am grateful for this peace and calm and quiet, grateful for time by myself to sink ever deeper into silence. During an earlier phone conversation with my brother we shared today's challenges and difficulties and he wondered aloud what wisdom might be contained in 365 Tao. As is often the case, the words I found were just right. It read, in part:
The mind that turns ever outward
Will have no end to craving.
Only the mind turned inward
Will find a still-point of peace....

True reality lies in withdrawal from the swirling variations of the outside world. It lies in looking within and then slowly peeling away the layers of subjectivity. What will remain is not a core of objectivity, but a kernel of truth that absorbs rather than reflects. If we enter into this kernel, our minds cease to continue their habits of creating stimulating realities, and we enter into a silence that feels perfect and whole. (p. 71)
Yes, I desperately needed today's t'ai chi chih practice. The swirls abated, the mind calmed, the body slowed, and peace prevailed. Shhhh....

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Originating Spirit is Everywhere....

Predicted fog shrouded the morning and now lies, thick, beneath an intense battering of heavy rain and hail. Thunder rumbles across the snow-encrusted landscape and I remind myself that it is still winter in the Northland.

It's a moisture-laden day and I hear a number of comments about stiff, sore knees during my morning TCC class. Our group practice ends in deep silence, each of us resting quietly in the shared feeling of peace before we turn onto the individual path of our day.

Today we read and discuss the 52nd Verse of the Tao, "Living by Returning to the Mother," per Wayne Dyer. In this chapter of Change Your Thoughts-- Change Your Life Dyer advises us to close our eyes and seal our ears to ensure that our spirits aren't frittered away on worldly activities. He writes:
Use fewer words; commit yourself to long periods of listening; and eliminate giving advice, meddling, and participating in gossip.... When you're inclined to get into other people's business, remember that your eternal Mother's one and only voice is silence. (pp. 254-55)
I'm grateful and blessed to be a teacher and guide for others as we move through this wonderful regenerative time of silence known as t'ai chi chih practice. With silence comes peace and with peace comes a welcome re-entry into a very special place, a place where no-thing is judged as inferior or unwanted anymore because ... we are all One.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chi Whiz

Rain began late morning and continues. Our early evening weather is liquid, drippy, runny wetness falling upon frozen, crystalized, subterranean wetness.

It's odd for a rainstorm to hit before the final snowstorm of the season--and yes, I guarantee there'll be another big snowstorm before the end of March--because that's just the way the weather works in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota (in Minnesota huge snows usually blow through during state high school basketball tournaments).

Given the abundance of moisture in the air I turned off the humidifier and listened to unceasing drip-drops during my TCC practice. Push-Pull and Pulling in the Energy filled my hands with a strong pulsating energy that reminded me of last night's discussion about Chi.

One class member mentioned that she'd always thought of Chi as an electrical charge but recently wondered whether it may be more like a chemical reaction that circulates through the watery composition of our bodies. I realized that my knowledge and experience with Chi has always been based on one thing: how it feels.

I moved slowly through much of my day and now, post-practice, I'm revitalized and calm ... very calm.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Mystery

Today began with a totally unexpected and wonder-filled realization: My injured knee seems to be improving! Something clicked. I suddenly understood that while I've practiced TCC outdoors this past week I haven't used a knee brace and ... my knee feels fine. No pain. No swelling. It doesn't exactly feel normal but it does feel better.

I remembered my conversation with Ed Altman during my Seijaku training and certification in 1999. One of my ankles was stiff, sore, and painful so I asked for Ed's input on how I should/could move. In response he asked me whether there was any chance that I anticipated the pain and modified my movement before I shifted my weight forward. Sure enough, when I checked it out, I realized that I was making subconscious adjustments to my practice.

My recent experiences with my knee lead me to believe that yes, I've done it again. Since the January TCC retreat, though, I've pushed myself to readjust my stance and concentrate on fully shifting my weight. Could I truly be improving? After all the stories I've heard from other t'ai chi chih teachers about positive changes in their health and well-being, I shouldn't be surprised.

Tonight's TCC classes were a tremendous pause in the busyness of daily life. Prior to class students discussed what they think Chi is and how they envision it moving and working in their bodies. It was evident during the discussion that each person had a slightly different way of expressing what Chi is to them. Though they may not understand it exactly they can still feel it and know that it impacts the mind-body. Clearly, Chi is a mystery. And, so, for that matter, is my knee....

Monday, March 8, 2010

Happy and free ...

Tonight's TCC practice slowed me down and offered relaxation and peace after a long day of balancing checking accounts, locating and finalizing paperwork, and beginning the long, tedious process of collecting and organizing income tax materials.

I'm continually amazed by how different--and how much better--I feel after a mere 10 or 20 minutes of TCC practice. Of course, I should no longer be surprised by its transformative effects since I've been practicing some form of t'ai chi since 1988. In fact, every t'ai chi chih teacher I've ever met has their own personal story of improved health, revitalization, or some other positive life change they've experienced as a result of TCC.

Today's T'ai Chi Chih Facebook site included an article just published: "Through T'ai Chi Chih, Highland man finds calm focus, wellness, serenity." That man, Peter Gregory, tells of his own struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). He admits, "I just could not quiet my mind to save my life."

After experiencing the energy flow and peaceful focus offered by t'ai chi chih Gregory decided to become certified as a TCC teacher. "This is not something to grasp intellectually," he says. "You have to feel the energy flowing through you, you have to feel the calmness after the practice, you have to feel how you have energy throughout the rest of the day."

Gregory's right, of course. But, me, I have a short memory. I have to be reminded of t'ai chi chih's benefits day after day, practice after practice. When we have a harmonious flow of energy, says Gregory, we are happy and free... Yes! And tomorrow--both during and after I've completed my TCC movements--I will once again be reminded of that fact....

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Calmness that Enters My Heart

I practiced TCC on the deck again today as I looked out on undulating hills and valleys of snow-covered Earth. The 50-degree temperatures loosened frozen piles of snow on the deck into tiny drips of water that seemed to bounce delightedly on the ground below.

My movements echoed back to me as I watched my shadow slip across a blue tarp draped over the tractor next to our deck. Occasionally I caught glimpses of shadow fingers and hands rising and falling across the purple-painted deck rails. The softness and slowness of these shadow movements--this dark reflection of myself--was relaxing ... comforting.

A light breeze tickled the back of my neck as I observed my shadow self. Near the end of practice I turned slightly into the wind and inhaled it, the air, fresh and gentle, the silence, deep.

I'm often surprised to discover how hard it is to quiet my Monkey Mind and how difficult it can be to give myself to my TCC practice. After I begin to move I'm incredibly grateful and humbled by the healing grace of these movements, the flow of Chi, the calmness that enters my heart....

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Flute of the Infinite

It's another day of wonder brimming with sun and silence! After an early morning snowshoe through the forest, a high near 60 degrees, and a midday nap, I headed out onto the deck in late afternoon to move through TCC while temps hovered in the upper 40s and low 50s.

This is a wonderful time of the year to practice outdoors. Number one reason: no bugs! Number two reason: it's warm but not too warm, it's cool but not too cool.

I closed my eyes several times during practice. It was long enough to forget the several feet of snow that lay all around me. Still, I felt comfortable--almost hot--as I moved. An occasional breeze slid over the snow-covered Earth, was ice-cooled, and reminded me that spring won't arrive for several more weeks.

Today's quiet air filled me with peace and I rested in the silence, breathing deeply, softly, slowly....
Ramana Maharshi said, 'Silence is unceasing eloquence.' From the silence of the Presence, messages of love are trying to reach us at every moment from every corner of the universe. Always to be receptive to this music, and so learn how to live in compassionate harmony with it, is the goal of the realized life....
          From: The Mystic Vision, "The Flute of the Infinite: The Spirit," p. 38

Friday, March 5, 2010

Without Words

Another glorious, warm, pre-spring day. After a high of 50 degrees I ventured onto the deck outside for a late afternoon practice, temps now around 35. As I moved, the sun gradually edged its way beyond the far side of the ridge behind our house. The day, overfull with unexpected challenges, now offered me the freedom of my time.

I breathed in--and marveled at--the deep silence that surrounded me; the only sounds were an occasional flutter of bird wings ... a peck here, a chirp there. How do I describe a practice that felt just right? Perhaps I don't. I'm reminded of Justin Stone's article All Things are as They Have Always Been. In it he writes about the limits of trying to put words to experiences. He ends:
Words have their place and are absolutely necessary for communication and the accumulation of knowledge, but they are not capable of taking the place of a valid experience. Words are, by their very nature, dualistic, and no realization of 'Oneness' (wholeness) can come from subject-object thinking. In short, do not be afraid to experience without labeling, or even remembering, the experience.
          From: Spiritual Odyssey, Selected Writings of Justin F. Stone, 1985-1997
My thoughts exactly. I came. I moved. I saw ... and heard ... and felt. I soaked in every drop of silence. And then ... I walked back into the house and reentered the story of my life.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What is Essential

The activities of this degenerate age are like a madman's
performance of dance.
No matter what we do, there is no way to please others.
Think about what is essential.
This is my heart's advice.
          --Bhande Dharmaradza
          From: A Complete Guide to the Buddhist Path, Khenchen Konchog Gyaltshen
As TCC teachers we all know--or have realized--that it is impossible to please everyone who attends our classes. Because each of us has a different way of thinking and a different way of learning we simply can't satisfy everyone. So what do we do? As Bhande Dharmaradza advises: Think about what is essential.

Each week as I drive to my classes I set my intention for the hour or more that I spend with my students. I articulate that intention mentally--and sometimes verbally--to begin to create a space that is safe and comfortable for all. I often ask the Universe for help in this process and, though I vary my request, it often sounds something like this: May I and the members of my class be filled with relaxation, peace, love, acceptance, and compassion. May we be peace.

This morning's Cornucopia class practiced the Healing Sounds per Sr. Antonia's instruction and guidance at the Twin Cities' TCC retreat in January. Since my class is small, I asked one person at a time to sit in the center of our circle and the remaining members of the class recited the Healing Sounds as we moved together around our classmate. In St. Paul we had about 30 practitioners, here in Cornucopia there were six of us.

But my class also experienced (I hope) some of what is essential ... to be open to the experience of Life Force energy, to experience its healing powers, and to willingly offer this gift of energetic healing to one another without expectation or reward: Ho, Hu, Szu, Hsu, Hsi, Chui. Ahhhh....

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sun-drenched Gratitude

It's a s'wonderful, s'marvelous day! Ohh, I have to watch myself ... I can feel spring fever creeping into my blood stream and flowing through my veins.

Northern woods' vital statistics: temperature, 45 degrees; weight, unknown due to rapid water loss from the continual drip of snow and ice melt; height, distance from sunshine-covered Earth to clear blue sky, unable to calculate; and blood pressure, normal, though reading may be influenced by joyous birdsong.

Spring fever invited me out onto the deck for TCC practice today. First I shoveled a clear spot in the snow and ice, then I carried out two lawn chairs, one cat, and one dog. The dog lay in one chair and the cat explored the edge of the deck in either direction as she monitored bird and squirrel activity. Only once did Chiripa venture off the deck into a deep snow drift. Instantly she leapt back to a dry, snow-free deck surface, and immediately licked her paws.

In the beauty, comfort, and quiet I shed jacket, gloves, and boots and moved to the Cosmic Rhythm. The pure air, blue sky, warm sun, sturdy trees, and sweet silence were a salve to my soul. I feel sun-drenched gratitude for this day and for my small, peaceful place in it....

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mental Rehearsal(s)

Today’s TCC practice was all in my head…. First, I performed a mental rehearsal during a half hour car ride to Ashland (my partner drove, I was the passenger). Then, I resumed my practice for another half hour while I waited for a medical test.

Oh, and did I tell you that I’ve always been an anxious person? I was extremely anxious before I learned T’ai Chi Chih moving meditation 16 years ago and my anxiety has—I gladly acknowledge--abated over the intervening years.

I’m still prone to anxious moments when I venture beyond the “safe” boundaries of familiar places, people, and situations. TCC practice offered--and continues to offer--a healing and balancing effect on my personality. And today TCC offered unaccountable solace in the midst of a morning filled with feelings of anxiety and stress.

Today’s reading from 365 Tao by Deng Ming-Dao focused on “Sorrow.” I easily substituted the word fear as I applied his wisdom and teachings. He writes:
     When sorrow [fear] comes, its bitterness soaks everything. The sages say that life is illusion, but does that change its poignancy?.... When faced with a sad [fearful] situation, it is best not to languish in it. We can change things by being with different people, moving to other places, or, if all else fails, adjusting our own attitudes to take the initiative. Sadness [fear] is transitory, like everything else. If we want to deflect it, we need only alter its context and allow it to be subsumed back into Tao.
Yes, fear [sadness] can be transformed through t’ai chi chih practice. Today's two mental rehearsals (plus two classes this evening) proved to me yet again that the power of this moving meditation is experiential. Whether your practice is performed by moving your body or by rehearsing movements in your head doesn't matter in the least.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Would you like to swing on a star?

Tonight I practiced in front of my office window in complete darkness. What a wonderful opportunity to see myself moving.... I was dressed entirely in black and, by the end of my form, I realized that I resembled a mime. What was I communicating through my movements without words?

I remembered a TCC teacher who wrote an article in The Vital Force journal many years ago. She'd asked her young students to come up with playful names for the movements based on nature and the animals they'd been studying. A quick review of a few of the TCC movements in front of the window showed me several scenarios that might be intuited from the movements. I include a few possibilities here...

Rocking Motion:  "Would you like to swing on a star?"
Daughter on the Mountain Top:  "What is the sound of two hands almost clapping?"
Carry the Ball to the Side:  "This is how I look when I dance without a partner..."
Push/Pull:  "Go away.... No, come close...."
Pulling in the Energy:  "I think the world is this big around ... How about you?"
Light at the Top of the Head/Light at the Temples:  "I'm a Jack-in-the-Box."
Joyous Breath:  "Am I ever going to get this suitcase closed?"

It's fun to play, isn't it?